Thursday, October 22, 2009

How to Choose Your Guitar Teacher

What You Should Expect from Your Guitar Teacher
Ever since I saw Brian May play his guitar on stage with Queen, I knew I wanted to pick up the guitar right away. I dreamt of being their second guitarist just so I could share the stage with Brian and the great late Freddie Mercury. However, because my dad's classical guitar (which was
so not rock-n-roll by the way) was too big for my then 6-year-old hand I never got around to learning it.

Without proper technique, you won't be able to go very far with the guitar. Sure, the internet can be a good source to learn guitar. However, along the way you're bound to pick up some bad habits. So for those of you who wish to pick up the guitar, I suggest that you enroll for lessons.

These days, any Tom, Dick and Harry can tell you they can teach you to play simply because they can somewhat play the guitar. You need to know how to choose the right guitar teacher for you as a teacher can either help develop your skills or put a damper to it.

So here are some of the things you need to know when looking for a guitar teacher:

1) What kind of guitarist do you want to be?

If you're a total beginner or you're not sure what kind of style you want to master, then it's okay to learn under a guitar teacher who isn't an expert in any particular style. When you're a total beginner, the most important thing to learn is the basics (such as scales), and being comfortable with the fret board. Get your basics first before you move on to the cool stuff.

Once you've gotten used to the guitar and have pretty much decided on what kind of music style you want to learn, it is okay to look for another teacher who's an expert in that particular style. If you want to be a guitarist who plays blues music, then you should learn from a teacher who teaches that style well. If you're dreaming of becoming the next Carlos Santana, then you should look for a rock teacher and so forth.

However, be wary of teachers who claim they can play/teach any style of music. Jack of all trades but master of none is not the kind of teacher you want to be learning from if you dream of being a virtuoso in the music style of your choice.

2) Do they give private lessons?

One-on-one lessons will give you two things: The teacher's complete attention and having the lesson suit your pace. Also, when you have the teacher all to yourself, you don't feel as shy or reserved to ask questions as opposed to being in a classroom full of budding musicians. Not only
will your teacher be able to answer your specific questions, but he/she can also offer you advice, correct your mistakes and guide you until you're ready to move on with the next lesson.

3) Cost and duration of lesson

When I was looking for my guitar teacher, it took me weeks to finally get a free slot in his schedule. In my mind I thought," His timetable is packed, that means he must have a lot of students. Therefore, this guy must be a pretty good teacher."

I'm not sure how the rates are like in your city or country but where I live (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), private lessons for beginner's level is around RM100 to RM135 per month for ½ hour weekly lessons (that's about USD $7 - $10 per lesson). If budget is going to be an issue, try asking the teacher if it's possible for you to go for lessons every fortnight instead of every week.

Please take the time to practice what you learn when you get home, otherwise you're really wasting your time with lessons. Take note, the guitar teacher (the ones who really care about your progress) do get frustrated with you when you come for his following lesson and didn't make any progress at all. And believe me, they do know when you don't practice.

4) Get to know one another

When you learn things about one another, it really helps with your learning progress. From the teacher, you would definitely want to know things like the teacher's qualification and how long he/she has been teaching guitar. You would definitely want to be taking lessons from someone who's been teaching for quite a number of years. Experience is what makes a teacher better after all.

A teacher should make the effort to find out about your knowledge in music theory, what kind of music you like, what you'd like to accomplish from taking lessons and so on. This is crucial as the teacher should fit the lesson to suit you (after all you are the one paying for it). This is so that the teacher would know how to help you improve, as well as to keep you interested and motivated in playing guitar.

For instance, I have a music background in piano and I played the flute for my university's symphonic orchestra. Therefore, I already know things such as scales, syncopation, tempo and so forth. So I didn't need my guitar teacher
teaching me from scratch, such as telling me the differences between a major scale and a minor scale, or how many notes to a bar. I needed him to teach me how to apply this knowledge into my guitar playing.

But can you imagine if he had taught me like as if I was a total beginner? On top of being bored out of my mind, I would've felt that his lessons were a repetition to my piano lesson days. I certainly wouldn't want to be paying for things that I already know.

So yes, it's important that you get to know your teacher and vice versa in order to have the lessons "custom-made" to your needs.

Hope this little bit of info helps you in your search for a guitar teacher. Good luck and all the best!

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